Zombie Hunger

The Psykonomist forwarded an extraordinary essay on the topic of popular appetite for Zombie Apocalypse, considered as an expressive channel for loosely ‘anarchist’ hostility to the state. Given the failure of Right-pole democratic initiatives to roll back — or even check — relentless government concentration and expansion, catastrophic ‘solutions’ emerge as the sole alternative:

Films and television shows have allowed Americans to imagine what life would be like without all the institutions they had been told they need, but which they now suspect may be thwarting their self-fulfillment. We are dealing with a wide variety of fantasies here, mainly in the horror or science fiction genres, but the pattern is quite consistent and striking, cutting across generic distinctions. In the television show Revolution, for example, some mysterious event causes all electrical devices around the world to cease functioning. The result is catastrophic and involves a huge loss of life, as airborne planes crash to earth, for example. All social institutions dissolve, and people are forced to rely only on their personal survival skills. Governments around the world collapse, and the United States divides up into a number of smaller political units. This development runs contrary to everything we have been taught to believe about “one nation, indivisible.” Yet it is characteristic of almost all these shows that the federal government is among the first casualties of the apocalyptic event, and—strange as it may at first sound—there is a strong element of wish fulfillment in this event. The thrust of these end-of-the-world scenarios is precisely for government to grow smaller or to disappear entirely. These shows seem to reflect a sense that government has grown too big and too remote from the concerns of ordinary citizens and unresponsive to their needs and demands. If Congress and the President are unable to shrink the size of government, perhaps a plague or cosmic catastrophe can do some real budget cutting for a change.

The essay captures a critical dimension of disintegration within the ‘reactionary camp’, dividing those who seek to co-opt the Cathedral-Leviathan managerial elite to a more realistic (or tradition-tolerant) political philosophy, and those who — far more numerously and inarticulately — are invested in the hard death of the regime. The latter (immoderate) position, it appears, is genuinely and even shockingly popular. Swathes of mass entertainment production are able to thrive on the basis of its seductive nightmares. (Is pulp catastrophism the economic base that will support neoreactionary contagion?)

Reading the Cantor essay alongside Jim Donald’s epochal Natural Law and Natural Rights essay is highly suggestive. A common thread running through both is the centrality of vigilantism to the popular Right. The purpose of Natural Law, Donald argues, is not to demand justice from a higher authority, but to neutralize the interference of any such authority in the pursuit of justice by decentralized agencies. Natural Law protects the right to legitimate vengeance, ensuring that individuals are not inhibited in their exercise of self-protection. When the State is seen to operate primarily as a social force defending criminals against retaliation, it loses the instinctive solidarity of the citizenry, and dark dreams of Zombie Apocalypse begin to coalesce.

Given the survivalist ethic in all these end-of-the-world shows, they are probably not popular with gun control advocates. One of the most striking motifs they have in common—evident in Revolution, Falling Skies, The Walking Dead, and many other such shows—is the loving care with which they depict an astonishing array of weaponry. The Walking Dead features an Amazon warrior, who is adept with a samurai sword, as well as a southern redneck, who specializes in a cross-bow. The dwindling supply of ammunition puts a premium on weapons that do not require bullets. That is not to say, however, that The Walking Dead has no place for modern firearms and indeed the very latest in automatic weapons. Both the heroes and the villains in the series—difficult to tell apart in this respect—are as well-armed as the typical municipal SWAT team in contemporary America.

Among the attractions of Zombie Apocalypse, in this construction, is the disappearance of the State as an inhibitory factor in the social economy of retaliation. The Zombie-plagued world is a free-fire zone, in which no authorities any longer stand between the armed remnant and the milling hordes of decivilization. Whatever the odds of the fight to come, the right to vigilante and counter-revolutionary violence has been unambiguously restored, and this is deeply appreciated — by opaque popular impulse — as a return to natural order. The State had taken sides against Natural Law, so that its catastrophic excision from the social field is greeted with relief, even if the cost of this disappearance is a world reduced to ashes, predominantly populated by the cannibalistic undead.

There’s  a ferocity to this that will be worked. It’s best to be prepared.

August 25, 2013admin 16 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Zombie

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16 Responses to this entry

  • Handle Says:

    I won’t surprise anyone here by identifying with the stable-transition converters and co-opters camp.

    But at any rate, I don’t think zombie-scenario entertainment really has political or social implications.

    Popular entertainment is very formulaic. People like ‘Soap Operas in Bizarre Situations full of Raw Emotions and Drama’. Women, especially, love the projections of themselves – the relationships, love triangles, petty jealousies and clique conspiracies, the in-group out-group dynamic, the conflict between several alpha males competing for leadership and their affections, etc. Men love the hero, action, combat, competition, struggle, quest, survival aspects.

    The holy grail of entertainment is to square the circle of the natural tendency to market segregation (as with Sports vs. Daytime Soaps), and construct a double-appeal with something for each gender for prime time and film.

    What you end up with is a lot of variations on what are just a few possible themes. In my view, the Zombie scenario is particularly effective because of the limited numbers of characters. Popular stories of these types almost always have a measure of isolation and lack of communication so that the characters are forced to deal only with each other. The constraint from escaping into the rest of the population, of having other friends and families that occupy equal parts of their lives instead of everything being about that ‘small circle of close associates’, is what drives the sense of cohesion and familiarity.

    Even shows which permit these other relationships to exist often do so in a trivial way, off-screen, peripheral, secondary to the centrality of the interactions of the core group. Lost and Friends and Cheers and the Walking Dead and even some Family sitcoms all rely on this extreme core-group-focus, and the setting and circumstances merely serves as a additional forcing factor of leaving people nowhere else to go. Even Northern Exposure, with Dr Fleishman’s used the artifix of his medical-school-reimbursement ‘contract’ which compelled him to stay with … yes, a small core group … in remote Alaska against his will. Do the Greek myths make less use of islands and ships and other contrivances of geographic isolation – or of battle, quest, or war to keep a small band together? And what of Tolkien and fantasy quests through hostile territory (full of zombie-level Monsters) in general?

    We notice patterns and pick the simplest explanations around these parts. So, less ‘politics’ to see here than simple special-usefulness in the entertainment calculus.

    In other news, my first post

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 5:42 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    I’ve been ignoring something as I don’t do much TV these days, but I think it is time for them to step on to the world’s stage and take what is rightfully theirs…and mine too…

    I also like scary Duck stories…

    http://img.poptower.com/pic-109651/si-robertson-duck-dynasty.jpg?d=600

    Quack. We’re.Coming.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 7:00 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Reminds me of a funny story… and BTW this is what actual systems crash is like.
    =====================================================

    “The GCC, three motarjim, and me…

    So me and the 3 Mexicans walk into the Alamo. Sitting behind the table is a duck. The duck’s beak hit’s the floor. He squawked “moqtada-flaq!”.

    I think I seen the same duck a month later on the Saddam snuff video. It’s tough to be sure…all the ducks look the same in ski masks and leather jackets.

    So I ask the duck..”are we early, or late?”

    The duck smiled oleaginously and said “no habibbi, you are just in time”. The other duck began a hushed, furtive cell phone call.

    After that, the motarjim were searched with barely restrained violence, all the while smiling and grinning at me with beaks dripping venom…do ducks have fangs? And the furtive, hurried cell calls continued, with the ducks waving their oily feathers of welcome at me and my increasingly alarmed charges. As I was the lone Amiriki, we decided we forgot some key paperwork and imshii’d the fiki outta there before the ducks got the go ahead call on the cell phone.

    The lesson’s of the close encounter with the ducks: 1) no one at the Green Zone knows what the fiki they’re talking about, even under their own noses (they sent us over there as we were looking for Iraqi passports). 2) the motarjim (terps) are dead at the hands of the ducks the day we leave, 3) never go anywhere without enough duck hunters, 4) I think the ducks are gonna win this race. “

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Zombies don’t duck.

    [Reply]

    VXXC Reply:

    Admin these were the Zombies, Iraqi Security Forces.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Sorry, that was a weak joke, formulated in brain-scrambled T-shirt design mode.

    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 7:05 pm Reply | Quote
  • James Says:

    Decentralisation is good, but only within the context of sophisticated and evolved institutions and law. Also, even Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, who thought that rightism had an anarchist streak, considered federalism, rather than disintegration into self-contained local polities, to be the best form of government.

    It is worth mentioning that the socialist intellectuals of Russia, pre-1917, believed in decentralisation and local self-government, and their milieu overlapped with the liberal constitutionalists. Karl Marx did not describe a Bolshevik coup. But vigilantism and other kinds of uninhibited violence, on the basis that the Tsar’s regime’s law was without legitimacy, characterised the Russian revolutions. Whereas mutinying soldiers and peasants were not intelligent enough to understand the importance of law, their uprising was facilitated by an intelligentsia suffused with various kinds of anarchist memes, libertarian and socialist.

    Thus, I can’t sympathise with emotional antipathy to “the state”. My wish is that people whose political lessons are fed to them through middle-brow zombie films do not become part of any fanatical mob, right or left.

    My impression of the zombie trope, however, is that the important transition has been from slow zombies and bodysnatchers, i.e. communists, via Romero’s consumerist zombies, to fast zombies infected with “rage” who symbolise the violent underclass.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Orderly decentralization would be nice, but it doesn’t look overwhelmingly probable. History is made by chaos and ignorance rather than rational planning. Realism requires the acknowledgement of that dire fact, doesn’t it?

    The trouble with the ‘sympathy’ point — which I am not instinctively averse to — is that at the point of historical decision, it is rare for any of the agencies who are effective enough to matter to merit much intellectual sympathy. Unless you have an example of a significant historical contest in which the role of reason was other than:
    (a) Subordinate technical support (as Hume expects), or
    (b) A marginal spectator
    ?

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 7:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • Bill Says:

    The outbreak has begun along the, until this week, completely normal leafy Creekside Bike-trail in Dayton, Ohio. Psychologists say that the man-like creature cannot possibly be human, because “no human would do that.” We cornered a second, clearly disheveled, doctor with a perplexed, worrying expression as he was rushing, hunched over a stack of manila folders and loose papers from the local CDC. Something about the doctor’s movement conveyed panic and our gooseflesh piqued, as he grabbed for his car door he is quoted as saying “…beings whose substance an alien evolution had shaped, and whose powers were such as this planet had never bred. And to think that only the day before Danforth and I had actually looked upon fragments of their millennially fossilized substance – and that poor Lake and his party had seen their complete outlines – It is of course impossible for me to relate in proper order the stages by which we picked up what we know of that monstrous chapter of prehuman life. After the first shock of the certain revelation, we had to pause a while to recuperate…”

    http://www.abc22now.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/wkef_vid_15445.shtml

    I stole the doctor’s quote from Lovecraft’s “At the Mountain of Madness.”

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 8:02 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    There is a tendency for modern systems crash to look like Iraq, or Mexico’s bad parts.

    John Robb has done some good work on this theme, it would help if he weren’t so keen on it to wash his conscience about taking money from evil state.

    Atavism is a force to be reckoned with in such times, our Atavism might likely be a return to our more natural local self-government. That would indeed be Federalist. There’s also the character of the people.

    Duck Army isn’t going to turn into Al-Qaeda in Iraq or Sendero Luminoso. It’s not in their basic character.
    Some lessons in Humility might be applied to our Intelligentsia and Snob Classes. There will be inevitable excesses and scores settled. I wouldn’t want to be a known child predator for instance. Vigilantism is merely protecting your neighborhood. Where you live. The American phenomenon isn’t that it once existed, it’s that it exists most places still, that is to say we are exceptional in the wrong way.

    I wouldn’t want to be seen continuing to look down on Duck Army. Hint.. It’s not as if our educated geniuses have bought us anything but catastrophic ruin. The elites bought it, not democracy. We’re about as much a democracy as mainland China. Maybe less. China for all it’s faults doesn’t have anti-Chinese government.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 25th, 2013 at 8:27 pm Reply | Quote
  • James A. Donald Says:

    I don’t think it is a “disintegration” within the reactionary camp: Rather, I see a future reactionary regime as a balanced regime with elements of aristocracy, monarchy, democracy, anarcho capitalism, and anarcho piratism, like the society from whence the Vikings came.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Is that prediction or advocacy?

    [Reply]

    James A. Donald Reply:

    Hope

    A more likely outcome is a mixture of despotism and anarcho piratism

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 1:53 am Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    You gotta be prepared.

    http://dilbert.com/dyn/str_strip/000000000/00000000/0000000/100000/90000/0000/700/190706/190706.strip.sunday.gif

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 8:19 pm Reply | Quote
  • Psykonomist Says:

    I don’t see how further “balkanization” (political subdivision along more culturally similar lines) isn’t inevitable across the globe, but most immediately in the US. This is, of course, not necessarily a reaction against open borders, but rather against closed borders that are too encompassing.

    [Reply]

    Posted on August 26th, 2013 at 10:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • Fome Zumbi – Outlandish Says:

    […] Original. […]

    Posted on January 16th, 2017 at 6:15 pm Reply | Quote

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